Spicy Olive and Tomato Spaghetti


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds (half a palmful)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano (1/3 palmfu)
  • 1 cup packed good quality pitted black olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white or red wine
  • 1 can Italian crushed or chopped tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Heat a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add salt and cook the pasta to al dente. Heads up: you will need to reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat; heat the EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel, red pepper, marjoram and olives and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the wine and reduce for 1 minute, then stir in the tomatoes, bring to a bubble and reduce the heat. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes to thicken and combine the flavors.

When the pasta is ready, add the starchy liquid to the sauce, drain the pasta and add to the pan. Toss vigorously for a full minute, then serve in shallow bowls with lots of grated Pecorino Romano on top.

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